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US IN: Region State Senator Leads Charge For Reform Of Ind

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URL: http://www.mapinc.or...1/n481/a07.html

Newshawk: Herb

Votes: 1

Pubdate: Sun, 24 Jul 2011

Source: Times, The (Munster IN)

Copyright: 2011 The Munster Times

Contact:male2('letters','nwitimes.com'); letters@nwitimes.com

Website: http://www.nwitimes.com/

Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/832

Author: Dan Carden

Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/decrim.htm (Decrim/Legalization)






Business leaders asking government to stop interfering in their work is a common occurrence at the Statehouse, and the Republican-controlled General Assembly usually is eager to remove obstacles impeding entrepreneurship.


But when that business is marijuana, the lawmakers who normally would do just about anything to help -- and claim credit for new jobs and tax revenue -- disappear.


That's why state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, is eager for Thursday's meeting of the legislature's Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee because the state's marijuana laws finally will get a thorough review.


"You can't believe the number of people that have called me and wanted to testify or help me in some way," said Tallian, who persuaded lawmakers this past spring to authorize the study.


Expected to speak are supporters of industrial hemp production and medicinal marijuana use and Hoosiers who believe it's best to legalize and tax the drug.


Tallian wants legislators to consider changing Indiana's marijuana sentencing laws, which are among the toughest in the nation.


"I want to see what people are willing to do," Tallian said. "We at least need to stop messing over people's lives and stop putting our children in jail for smoking pot."


Currently, possession of any marijuana is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.


A second offense or possession of more than 30 grams, enough for about 30 to 40 marijuana cigarettes, is a felony, with a potential prison sentence of three years. A person caught holding 10 pounds or more faces up to eight years in prison.


Tallian said a survey this year of her constituents in Lake and Porter counties found 96 percent want the state's marijuana laws changed, as 30 other states recently have done.


One roadblock to reform might be a man who was arrested in 1970 after police found enough marijuana in his Princeton University dorm room to fill two shoe boxes -- Gov. Mitch Daniels.


Daniels eventually pleaded guilty to maintaining a common nuisance and was fined $350. Under current Indiana law, he likely would face a multiyear prison sentence.


But when asked based on his own experiences whether Indiana's marijuana laws ought to be changed, Daniels said, "Not in my view."


In the end, Tallian and Daniels might end up working together.


The Republican governor wants all criminal sentences changed to save money by reducing short prison terms and placing nonviolent criminals in community or home detention programs.


Tallian thinks changing the state's marijuana laws fits that agenda perfectly but said she's well aware of the challenges of making that happen.


"What I think and what I think I can get through are two different things," she said.

MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom

Edited by greenbuddha
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